As written on the homepage of the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) website "Founded in 1670 by King Charles II, the Hudson's Bay Company played a vital role in building Canada as a nation”.
The purpose of this essay will be, first, to explain the evolution of the Company from its creation in 1670 until its incorporation into the Dominion in 1870, and next to show what the consequences for thedevelopment of Canada were, knowing that the Company has always been interlocked with the country's history. Even if, at the beginning, the Company had marginal economic importance, it progressively became one of the main strengths that led to the construction of modern Canada, from both a geographic and an economic point of view.
The Hudson Bay was discovered in 1610 by Henry Hudson who was looking forthe Northwest passage to the Orient when he entered the strait and the bay that now bear his name. This bay is an inland sea of 470,000 square miles that leads to the Arctic Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean making it the second-largest bay in the World. In 1670, a declaration of the King of England gave birth to one of the oldest private companies that still functions today. In its early days, theCompany of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson's Bay grew rapidly due to the supply of beaver pelts, which seemed endless, while beaver was already an endangered species in Europe. The booming European demand for furs to make hats and the availability of a cheap workforce, the Natives, enabled the Hudson's Bay Company to keep expanding.
The first part of the essay will cover the first centuryof the Company as a monopoly, and the second part will cover the period from the creation of its largest rival, the North West Company, until the handover of Rupert's Land to Canada. This history will explain the impacts the Company had on the economic development of Canada.
In 1659, two French coureurs du bois, Pierre Radisson and his brother-in-law Medard Chouart des Groseilliers, were thefirst Europeans to penetrate deep into the forest region of the north, negotiate with the Cree and explore the sources of the Mississippi and the Missouri Rivers. “They had actually travelled by river from Lake Superior to the shores of Hudson Bay, and that the Bay gave access to the richest fur-bearing regions of North America” (Woodcock, 1970, p19). In 1660, their large quantities of furs wereconfiscated in New France, they were fined for breaking the law, and des Groseilliers was imprisoned on the pretext that he had not obtained a trading licence. The English heard about these two coureurs du bois. On the 25th of October, 1666, they met King Charles II in England, who agreed to support their search for furs and immediately granted them a royal protection and a weekly provisionalallowance of 40 shillings. Prince Rupert, cousin of the King of England, wanted to wrest the lucrative fur trade from the French, and he had supported the adventure of Hudson Bay explorers since its early years. In 1668, the des Groseilliers' ship, the Nonsuch, sailed and Radisson did the same in the Eaglet, but a storm 1600 km from Ireland forced Radisson to return to England. In the spring of 1669,they returned to England with the furs they had obtained from the Natives in exchanges for muskets, powder, shot, hatchets, needles, and trinkets. The success of this first trip demonstrated the resources there were to exploit around the Hudson Bay.
By the Charter of the 2 of May, 1670, the King made the enterprise of Prince Rupert and his partners, known as the "Company of Adventurers ofEngland trading into Hudson's Bay ", the owner of all lands and seas of the Hudson Bay and its water system, and granted a monopoly to the Company. It was a common royal concession whose objectives accorded with the English mercantilism of this time. While controlling the French expansion in North America, who, were exploiting the St Lawrence River area, the Company would stimulate trade. What...
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